In: Construction

During this challenging time for all businesses, Northern Craft Construction, Pasadena, MD has introduced unique and innovative measures in both seeking new business and in maintaining quality control of their construction projects. The current pandemic has certainly changed the landscape of how businesses must now cope with normal day-to-day practices that required intimate onsite discussions and review of project status. Searching for new business and presentation of estimates also presents challenges to communicate project details while still practicing social distancing.

When opportunities arise to acquire new business, Bruce typically would set up an appointment with the homeowner and travel to meet with them at their home. Sometimes the new business would be an insurance claim, other times home remodeling. In all cases, the introduction to the costs of the project would be discussed while walking around the home with the homeowner, inspecting and measuring the premises. Then, after sitting down at a table with his laptop and monitor, Bruce would develop and discuss the plans of the project, sometimes presenting a 3D image and walk-through an animated rendering generated on-the-spot by Bruce. Before leaving the meeting, a detailed proposal would be printed out and left with the client. On most occasions, the proposal would be signed, and the homeowner would present a deposit check to get started with the project. This meeting usually ends up with a hug and a handshake, especially with current homeowners that Bruce has already worked with over the years. These personal relationships are the key to the successful business that Northern Craft Construction has enjoyed over the past 25+ years of business in Anne Arundel County.

The challenges Bruce faces is how to maintain the personal relationships nurtured over two decades while still maintaining the new safety directives as a result of COVID-19. Head on, Northern Craft jumped into gear to provide new procedures that both accomplish the communications and measurements required to create profitable proposals and yet, demonstrate the attention to personal safety to current and prospective clients – the cornerstone of a successful business. Bruce started this process by donning medical safety booties, face mask, and gloves to meet with all onsite clients, all-the-while maintaining the 6-foot social distancing as mandated by CDC. This process was followed until personal protective equipment (PPE) became in short supply.

Bruce has modified his safety procedure to maintain the attention to safety by setting up a mobile disinfectant station in his truck, which he displays to clients by parking in close, but safe proximity within the homeowner’s sight. In the back of his truck, tailgate down, there is a large container of disinfecting solution (bleach and washing solution) and a pair of rubber boots and gloves. Bruce puts on these boots and gloves before meeting with any clients and walks up to greet the homeowner, always keeping the 6-foot social distancing. Bruce comments, “I feel really awkward, but I know that I’ve demonstrated to the homeowner my personal conviction that I respect both my safety and theirs.” Following the meeting, in a clear view of the homeowner, the boots and gloves are washed with the disinfectant solution and hung up in the truck awaiting the next use.

If the homeowner would rather not meet indoors, weather-permitting, Bruce erects a temporary tent outside the home, sets up a table and his laptop and a truck-mounted 32” video display monitor (powered by an inverter in his truck), and invites the prospective client to meet for a ‘pop up’ presentation, still wearing his make-shift PPE. He asks the client to do a Face Time (recorded by Bruce for future reference) walk-through the home, all the while listening to Bruce as he guides them through the process of pointing their cell phone in areas of concern. Also nestled into his mobile presentations is a printer with an untouched ream of paper at the ready for the printing of the proposal. Bruce takes measurements from outside the structure and records them into his estimating program while sitting in his makeshift, but fully appointed ‘truck front seat office.’ He talks with the client during the entire process and asks for an hour or two to complete the estimate/proposal in the driveway! These innovative communications are all completed while successfully also satisfying the social distancing mandate. When the proposal is completed, he offers to give the client a hard copy and also offers to immediately email the client the proposal, also offering financing on the project, right on the spot.

So, what happens after the project starts? It was customary and for Northern Craftworkers and company president, Bruce Northcraft to routinely meet with the project homeowners to inspect and review progress. This typically would take place onsite, first by Bruce meeting with his workers to inspect and quality control the project, followed by an onsite meeting with the homeowners face-to-face, sometimes with a walk-through to review progress.

Bruce has also developed a communications platform for both Northern Craft and the homeowner to view project progress. For each home remodeling project, Bruce initiates a job site photo album through Google photo share, with imagery and videos for everyone to communicate with during the project. The images and video provide the opportunity for quality control by reviewing daily uploads, further discussed with employees through phone communications. His workers upload images and videos for Bruce to first, inspect quality control and second, to share with the client – all over the internet and phone, thereby eliminating the need for face-to-face communications. As soon as someone adds to the photo album, everyone, including the homeowner receives notifications.

Additionally, as a mandate for his workers on site, he requires that each worker take a picture at the start of each day showing their body temperature from the digital temporal scanner thermometer provided to each employee. This works both as a safety measure and a time clock as to when the work starts and ends their day at the projects. The workers upload to the project album these daily temporal temperature images to illustrate to the homeowner, fellow workers, and Bruce that everyone onsite is healthy and not experiencing any symptoms of the virus. As an additional safety precaution, each team member has individual portable toilets with their own portable tents to ensure added safety both to workers and the homeowner. They simply take their own ‘business’ home, disposing of it in their toilet. The workers are a little embarrassed, but they feel safe and have no problem taking care of their business after hours. All of this is discussed with the owners, letting them know about the tents and asking where they feel comfortable as to where to place them in the yard before the job starts.

Bruce has considered that his small investments in safety, both for Northern Craft Construction workers and homeowners alike. Bruce comments, “Showing respect to my homeowners and workers through these creative methods is a way for us to not only continue to conduct daily business, respecting social distancing, but also to demonstrate to our clients our respect for their health and well-being.” Truly, Northern Craft demonstrates their successful business mantra; Building the way we were raised, integrity with pride. If you are looking to remodel your home, have an insurance claim, or need an exterior repair, please call Northern Craft Construction for a free, no-obligation, safe estimate at 410-437-9516.